Support

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

VOICE Summit 2021, a conference highlighting the latest in artificial intelligence and voice technology, will kick off this evening in Crystal City.

Thousands of technology specialists, marketers and representatives from leading brands are expected to attend the event, which ends Wednesday evening. It is hosted by Modev, a Ballston-based company exploring the future of voice controls.

The event will highlight innovations in the retail, healthcare, travel and entertainment industries driven by conversational AI. It will focus on how tech companies can enhance customer experience and meet growing consumer demands and heightening expectations for conversational technology, like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

For the first time, the local startup’s conference, now in its fourth year, will be held in Arlington. VOICE 2018 and 2019 were both held in Newark, New Jersey and together attracted some 7,000 attendees. The conference was held virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“We’re excited to bring the event to Arlington, Va. and to gather industry back together,” Modev CEO and founder Pete Erickson said in a statement. “Conversational AI has evolved a lot since the start of the pandemic and is now a core component of an overall general business and marketing strategy for brands and enterprises. Large investments are being made across industries to capitalize on voice driven strategy, and companies are committed to enhancing the customer experience.”

Modev says VOICE Summit is the industry’s flagship event, capable of shaping the future of voice technology, AI and “ambient computing,” or any computer activity so deeply integrated into daily life that humans don’t realize they’re using computers.

VOICE Summit 2021 promotional graphic (courtesy photo)

This is the first major tech event to relocate to National Landing — collectively, the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods  — since Amazon announced it would build its second headquarters in Arlington in 2018, according to Arlington Economic Development.

The two-day event will be virtual and in-person at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel (2800 S. Potomac Ave). The event will feature keynotes, fireside chats, panels and breakout “conversations” that allow the audience to play an active role in the discussion.

Attendees will hear keynote speeches from Silicon Valley startup founders and tech leaders, including Rich Stern, the CEO of Tune-In; Andi Huels, the head of AI at Lenovo; and Audrey Arbeeny, a two-time Emmy Award winner and creator of sounds for the world’s top brands.

“We look forward to bringing leaders together to discuss this shift and helping them chart a path to success in the new year,” Erickson said.

Smart voice assistants Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the event’s top sponsors.

Founded in 2008, today, Modev also produces the VOICE Global event, presented by Google Assistant, and the award-winning VOICE Talks internet talk show.

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

OxiWear, an Arlington-based company developing a wearable oxygen monitoring device, has raised a pre-seed funding round of $1.25 million, exceeding its goal of $750,000.

This funding will allow the medical- and sports-technology startup to finish developing its product and start beta testing it before releasing the device by mid-year 2022.

OxiWear was started by Shavini Fernando, who lives with severe pulmonary hypertension: a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood through the lungs. It leaves her vulnerable to sudden and undetected drops in oxygen, known as silent hypoxia.

Rather than let the disease rule her life, she decided to develop an ear-wearable pulse oximeter that offers 24-hour, continuous oxygen monitoring and low-oxygen alerting. She invented the device in Georgetown University’s maker’s hub while a graduate student.

“OxiWear is a product that I developed to help patients like me — those living with pulmonary hypertension,” Fernando said. “Through our research, we learned that there is a larger market for oxygen monitoring including elite athletes, high-altitude travelers and patients with diseases such as [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], sleep apnea and COVID-19.”

OxiWear founder Shavini Fernando (courtesy of Shavini Fernando)

The ear is one of the most accurate body parts for measuring oxygen saturation levels and detecting when they begin to drop, according to the company.

But the device is not just suitable for those prone to silent hypoxia. Performance athletes and high-altitude travelers can use it to receive non-intrusive and accurate oxygen monitoring 24 hours a day, according to the company.

In anticipation of launching the product next year, OxiWear is meeting with the Food and Drug Administration to earn its medical device designation and is participating in the leAD Sports & Health Tech accelerator program.

Leading the pre-seed round was GAP Funds, an investment program of the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation — formerly CIT — that previously invested in the company this summer.

“OxiWear is a game changer for those affected by the complications of pulmonary hypertension, and could be the difference between safety and danger,” said Tom Weithman, VIPC’s Managing Director of GAP Funds.

The startup received re-investments from previous supporters Ted Leonsis and The Paul & Rose Carter Foundation.

“I’ve been a proud, early supporter of Shavini and her life-saving work and I congratulate her on not only meeting her pre-seed funding round target — but decisively beating it,” Leonsis said. “It’s a testament to how in-demand her product is and how smartly she has built her company around it. I expect she will only continue to grow, and I happily stand by her to offer advice whenever she needs it.”

Paul Caicedo, Future Communities Capital, Gaingels, Halcyon Fund, Hourglass Venture Partners, TiE’s D.C. and Boston chapters and Tysons Angel Group funded this round.

Halcyon Fund is tied to a flagship residency fellowship for entrepreneurs at Georgetown, the Washington Business Journal reports. The fund has been building up an investment strategy, including an angel investment network and a microloan fund, with the goal of improving access to capital for women and people of color starting their own companies.

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

Hacks of infrastructure are on the rise, according to Ballston-based cyber security company Fend, which says the newly passed infrastructure bill with “unprecedented” cybersecurity spending couldn’t come at a better time.

Within the last year, criminals have realized that the business of holding billion-dollar infrastructure systems for ransom is a lucrative one, says Fend’s CEO and Founder Colin Dunn. Companies and government agencies work together to rustle up the ransom sum and put a halt to the chaos these attacks cause, such as the long lines at the pump after the Colonial Pipeline hack.

“They’re out for the money,” Dunn said. “It wasn’t until this year that they realized, ‘Oh, you can hold a pipeline company for ransom and everyone’s going to be really angry.’ I think we’re going to see more of it. Attackers are seeing how weakly defended these major major assets are.”

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill, signed into law last week, includes nearly $2 billion for cybersecurity. About $1 billion will go to state, local, tribal and territorial governments to modernize their systems to deter cyber attacks; $100 million will support a cyber response and recovery fund accessible to private-sector owners of critical infrastructure; and $21 million will go toward staffing the Office of the National Cyber Director, according to a U.S. Senate press release.

Dunn is encouraged by the allocation, as well as similar allocations in the American Rescue Plan Act.

“This is really unprecedented,” Dunn said. “I think the administration has seen these attacks, like the one on Colonial Pipeline… and they’re taking it really seriously, knowing that’s a threat that our enemies and criminals can hold over us — hold billion-dollar assets for ransom.”

Colin Dunn of Fend at an expo this year (courtesy photo)

Having the conversation now — when new infrastructure is set to be built — means that cybersecurity can be embedded from the beginning, rather than retroactively applied after an attack, he says.

“So much of the infrastructure that we are seeing fall under attack… we’ve had to apply cybersecurity way after these facilities were brought online. Now we’re talking about doing that up front,” he said. “Baking that early in the conversation is a big step forward and will be good for our security overall.”

The bill could be a boon for Arlington, which is home not to numerous cybersecurity companies, but also to “big players in energy,” he says. It emphasizes cybersecurity workforce development, which could be good news for a state and region focused on creating a pipeline of tech workers.

“There’s pretty much zero unemployment in cybersecurity, and expanding that nationwide is going to be really important, and here, where it’s a stronghold,” he said.

The bill does include a preference for U.S.-made goods and services, such as Fend’s cybersecurity products, which Dunn says will be helpful for supporting American businesses rather than the great deal of overseas competition.

He said he hopes the spending helps protect the U.S.’s growing renewable energy facilities, such as the solar farms that Fend secures. Securing renewable energy has long been one of Dunn’s priorities.

“If we lose our renewables, we’ll go back to burning more fossil fuels,” he said.

In this new world of infrastructure hacks, Fend has gained traction and business, Dunn says.

Most recently, Fend — located at 4600 Fairfax Drive in Ballston — announced a partnership with Federal Resources Corporation, allowing Fend’s products to be sold to more government agencies, such as the Department of Defense. That’s fitting, he says, because government funding helped Fend get started.

“Between them and NASA, there’s lots of funding flowing, which helps make the product readily accessible,” he said.

Earlier this year, Fend completed some additional fundraising and attained its third patent, he added.

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

(Updated on 11/16/21 at 6 p.m.) Shift5, a Rosslyn-based cybersecurity company, has raised $20 million in Series A funding to help protect the world’s transportation infrastructure and weapons systems from cyberattacks.

The money will allow Shift5 to expand its Arlington office, adding secured facilities and labs, and add to its 50-person team, according to its announcement.

Shift5 also plans to educate fleet operators, regulators and legislators on the risks that unsecured computerized infrastructure present and show them how the data collected by these digitized planes and trains can be used to improve their efficiency, the announcement said.

The round was led by 645 Ventures, with participation from Squadra Ventures, General Advance and First In.

The company, founded by two veterans of the U.S. Army’s Cyber Branch, closed its seed funding round in 2019. Since then, Shift5 has grown through a series of contracts with several large, national passenger rail systems and more recently, with the U.S. Army and Air Force to beef up security on their combat vehicles and planes, respectively.

With the news of the second funding round and new contracts, ARLnow asked Shift5’s CEO and co-founder Josh Lospinoso to reflect on the entrepreneurial process and on what it takes to raise money as a startup. The following Q&A has been slightly condensed and edited for clarity.

ARLnow: How long have you been actively working on raising Series A funding? Did the numbers meet or exceed expectations?

Lospinoso: Shift5 closed seed funding in 2019, and in the aftermath, won a series of contracts, including work with the US Air Force, which allowed us to grow organically through this year. Our Series A was very competitive, and ultimately our new partners at 645 represented a huge addition to the team that we couldn’t pass up.

ARLnow: When you started the company, were you someone who got energized by the idea of talking to investors, or was that intimidating? Do you think your product is an easy sell, given the immediate and debilitating threats cyberattacks pose?

Lospinoso: The Shift5 founding team is very passionate about the risk to national security posed by insecure transportation infrastructure. The idea of spreading awareness about the problem was more exciting and energizing than intimidating. We live in an era in which the cyber physical effects of cyberattacks are rapidly becoming a national menace. We’re seeing the US government act here — for example, the TSA is mandating rail and air operators tighten cybersecurity. Our customers are just glad there are folks out there solving the problem for them.

Shift5 founders deploy their product on a train (courtesy of Shift5)

ARLnow: Was there a steep learning curve to starting a company after leaving the military? Or do you think that it imparted some entrepreneurial skills?

Lospinoso: There was a pretty steep learning curve. The military prepared Mike and me for this. You’re used to jumping into high-tempo environments, having to learn the ropes quickly under a lot of pressure.

ARLnow: Which was harder, raising Seed or Series A funding?

Lospinoso: Both have difficulties in their own way. Seed Series funding is really team- and mission-focused. The Series A is much more about product/market fit. It’s about showing how your thesis at the Seed Series is playing out. By numbers, relatively few companies raise a Series A successfully. We were fortunate that we faced a problem in uniform that gave us a unique perspective on a very large opportunity. And we see that playing out.

ARLnow: What does it take to raise $20 million?

  1. Knowing something about the world that few people know to be true. Go after a big problem facing lots of people. The best kinds of problems are those that people don’t know they have.
  2. Having a risk appetite to eschew a steady paycheck and work/life balance to throw every ounce you have at a single problem.
  3. Being stubborn enough not to be deterred by short-term setbacks but nimble enough to accept feedback from customers, investors, and employees.
  4. Telling the story effectively and rallying others to your cause.
  5. Having a maniacal focus on solving customer problems.
  6. Having the maturity to give up responsibilities and control to empower those around you. Remember about rallying others to your cause.
0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

(Updated 3:15 p.m. on 11/9/21) Next to water, Americans probably drink coffee more than any other beverage — but they know very little about the brew, says Karel Leon, the co-founder of a Ballston-based coffee company.

He and his co-founder Javier LLano want to change that by selling better beans through their company, Black & Brown Coffee House (4075 Wilson Blvd). It has the ambitious goal of tackling commercial coffee’s alleged unhealthy physical side effects and unethical treatment of farmers and unsustainable practices, while giving back to D.C.’s poorest communities.

“When you have a product, any product, and you know your food is not ethical, it’s not sustainable, and it’s bad for health of consumer, I would quit that job,” he said. “Why would I do that?”

Disaffected by his job at World Bank Group, Karel — who grew up on a coffee farm in Colombia — wanted to do work that directly impacted people in poverty. He started Dignity Coffee in 2018, providing offices with coffee from growers in his hometown, and brought LLano on after.

But the pandemic hit and slashed Dignity’s profits by 90%, he said. Karel and LLano, who are Latino and Black, respectively, rebranded in the wake of 2020’s social justice movements to draw attention to the inequality in the commercial coffee industry and provide consumers with an alternative.

Black & Brown Coffee House founders Javier LLano and Karel Leon pose with Colombia coffee farmers (courtesy photo)

They decided to start where bad-quality coffee hits people the hardest: their stomachs.

“The most important thing for the consumers is to educate people about what ‘healthier black coffee means’ and why that matters,” Leon said.

Leon needed coffee at the office in order to remain alert, but it gave him indigestion, so he tried eating bagels and adding milk and sugar to quiet his stomach grumblings.

He realized he wasn’t alone. Moreover, he learned that the common side effects of diarrhea and acid reflux could be traced to where the coffee berries are grown and how they’re picked and processed.

Most commercial coffee berries are grown in flat areas in the constant sun. He said coffee trees ought to grow on the sides of tree-covered mountains, where berries are exposed to fluctuating hot and cool weather that balances out the acidity and fully develops their natural flavors.

But farmers use flat land because their machines — which don’t discriminate between ripe, unripe and rotten coffee berries like a picker in the mountains would — to scale up their harvests, he said.

Berries continue developing their flavors during a fermentation process that underpaid farmers being exploited by large companies tend to rush, he said.

To extract flavor from under-ripe coffee, the beans are caramelized — or burned — on a high heat, which produces oils the body also can’t handle effectively, he said. Coffee shops and fast food places combat the burnt taste by serving the coffee extra hot, with additives or as carbon dioxide-infused “Nitro coffee.”

“This is one of the most unknown stories out there,” he said. “If people knew better, they would make better choices.”

Black and Brown Coffee House produces “healthy coffee” by paying Colombian coffee farmers fair wages and divvying up the work, he said.

Read More

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

Federated Wireless is using its proprietary private 5G solution to make a Marine Corps Logistics Base in Georgia smarter.

The company says it was able to make it happen because of its physical location in Arlington, close to the Pentagon. From its Ballston office at 4075 Wilson Blvd, Federated Wireless conducted in-person demonstrations and briefings with Department of Defense leaders during the pandemic, when travel was down.

“Being located in Arlington has really been a benefit to Federated Wireless,” Vice President and General Manager Sal D’Itri said. “We won a huge contract to implement our technology along with some marquee partners at the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany because of our headquarter presence close to the Pentagon and its leaders. We’ve been able to cultivate those relationships as we build the business.”

This past January, it deployed its solution at the base. The improved connectivity supports innovations such as precision forklifts, smart sensors and robots, and automated inventory management, making manual inventory and manual work inside the warehouse a thing of the past.

“This is one of the largest smart warehouse deployments of private 5G networks in the United States,” D’Itri said.

Two Marines Corps members push inventory in a warehouse (courtesy photo)

The 5G being used in Georgia provides persistent communication — also known as low latency — to spectrum networks that goes way beyond what’s available to ordinary cellphone users. D’Itri says the warehouse needs this low latency in order to support sensors, robots and machines without the interruptions and network slow-downs cellphone users occasionally experience.

“It’s a technology that’s really geared for enterprises,” he said. “We can have the low-latency that we need for robotics. We have the capacity for things we need, like holographic Internet of Things representations and augmented reality.”

Federated Wireless is growing as governments and enterprises worldwide increasingly focus on harnessing innovative 5G networks.

“5G is on every ad and every commercial now,” D’Itri said. “Our business is growing with that, particularly as we look at 5G networks that are targeting enterprises, school districts and communities that want to have a private, secure network that is more oriented to applications, as opposed to merely a carrier network” such as AT&T or Verizon.

He says Federated Wireless’s private 5G solution is made possible through its “shared spectrum controller.” In the U.S. today, spectrum is either assigned to the federal government or auctioned to carriers like AT&T. Federated Wireless uses its proprietary controller to share unused spectrum with private companies, powering reliable, private 5G networks.

With that kind of power, D’Itri says companies can not only experience greater connectivity without being tied to a specific carrier but can create “next-generation experiences” such as holographs or virtual reality.

Using its ability to share spectrum, Federated Wireless is also looking to tackle another area that large businesses and equipment manufacturers heavily rely on: WiFi.

“When you add spectrum to WiFi, you help relieve congestion and deploy more of it to stay connected,” D’Itri said. “[Consumers] would have better WiFi connectivity and more capacity.”

With these developments, D’Itri says Federated Wireless is having to grow its local presence over the next several years.

“We certainly are planning to continue hiring our Arlington office,” he said. “We have a wonderful facility here, growing the Arlington ecosystem and hiring Arlington folks, and bringing business into Arlington.”

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Qntfy, an Arlington-based startup collecting data on mental health, has just been acquired by a platform that connects therapists and patients.

The terms of the acquisition by Denver-based SonderMind are not public. But the purchase of the 6.5-year-old company came right as Qntfy was beta-testing its software, which analyzes users’ data to enhance people’s experience in therapy.

“Often, in therapy, the homework is to go home and record your thoughts, emotions, what’s happened, whatever we’re trying to track,” said Qntfy’s founder Glen Coppersmith, now the Chief Data Officer at SonderMind. “It turns out there are other ways to capture that information: Some of us have wearables that explain what our heart is doing, when we’re sleeping. Others of us have social media, and we’re explicit about what’s going on in our lives: we’re posting pictures with or without people, what we do.”

The software’s algorithm uses the data to estimate the mental health of the patient, which can then inform therapy sessions and improve the patient’s well-being over time, he said.

Glen Coppersmith, former founder and CEO of Qntfy, now Chief Data Officer for SonderMind (courtesy photo)

Coppersmith says the product was still being tested when a potential funder introduced him to the CEO of SonderMind in early 2021.

“And that went in a very different direction than any of us thought,” Coppersmith said. “They were building all these human systems, while we were building all the technology systems. We were building as the same company and yet, we’d never met.”

Through the acquisition, SonderMind has gained a data science team and Qntfy now has a way of integrating its algorithm into the mental health field, he said.

“Recruiting Glen and the Qntfy team adds additional depth to the comprehensive SonderMind experience,” SonderMind’s co-founder and CEO Mark Frank said in a statement. “This ultimately gets people better more quickly, more effectively, and at less cost over time.”

The algorithm will be built into SonderMind’s app, which is “very far along in development” and “coming in the very near term,” Coppersmith said.

The app will be available to residents in a dozen states, including Maryland and Virginia. In 2022, SonderMind will continue personalizing therapy using Qntfy’s system, he added.

SonderMind’s app (courtesy photo)

Qntfy mostly operated remotely but had an Arlington office and its first check came from local co-working space Eastern Foundry.

As part of the office space’s first Foundry cup, the company awarded innovative approaches to understanding post-traumatic stress disorder — a particular interest of the company’s veteran founders, Coppersmith said.

“I’m not a vet, but my background is in computer science and psychology,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in using computers to understand human behavior… what makes people violent, and how do you understand and prevent that.”

While Coppersmith explored these questions during his graduate work at Johns Hopkins University, he discovered a “gaping hole” in available data on mental health outcomes.

“There’s immense pain, suffering and cost associated with mental health, but part of the real difficulty was that we couldn’t quantify objective measures of mental health and well being,” he said.

Since the available measures cost significant time and money, he turned to repurposing user data that would otherwise just get used to sell people goods and services.

To fund the research and development of that technology, Qntfy worked with clients seeking a greater understanding of mental health issues, including the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a nonprofit for veteran wellness.

“We were a standalone business incubating this product, taking contracts that allowed us to build the relevant technology for this, and we had enough and were going for rapid expansion,” he said. “This is a far better plan.”

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

(Updated 2:25 p.m.) This week, George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus will hold Accelerate 2022, a new startup competition and investor conference.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, the campus will host dozens of top tech companies and students who will showcase their ideas to venture capital investors and the D.C.-area tech community. They’ll be competing for cash prizes and potential investments as well as “fame, glory, and bragging rights,” the website said.

The competition targets companies from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. with $2 million in revenue or less, students with business concepts that could be viable in the long term, and entrepreneurs seeking seed funding.

“This will be pretty exciting,” said Paula Sorrell, GMU’s associate vice-president of innovation and economic development. “There’s a lot of interest. Knowing the early-stage tech economy is important to the region and expanding rapidly, we’re all running at a rapid pace and this is one example of that.”

Founders Hall and Hazel Hall at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus (via Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University)

Taking into account some last-minute registrations, Sorrell says there will be “a couple hundred” participants this year, spread across four indoor-outdoor venues.

Accelerate 2022 is one of the early fruits of Mason’s planned expansion in Arlington and the Commonwealth’s Tech Talent Investment Program, which aims to graduate thousands of computer science students. Both were sparked by Amazon’s decision to establish its second headquarters in Arlington, construction of which is now well underway.

“The feedback we got pretty consistently indicated that there were a couple of gaps,” Sorrell said. “One was in seed capital and the other was in late-stage funds. In Mason’s role as educator and convener, the feedback was we can play a role in getting together ecosystem partners, curating partnerships between local investors and those not in the region to create more of a strong edge here.”

The associate vice-president said Accelerate will give smaller companies the opportunity to pitch in front of investors, allowing them to get feedback on their business models and pitches.

“This helps make better companies in the long run,” she said.

Students from the D.C. area will learn the process of entrepreneurship and funding, which are “critical experiences for those who want to run their own company or join a startup,” Sorrell said.

Accelerate 2022 draws on GMU’s experience hosting global investor conferences, she said. The new event has attracted more than 28 sponsors and a number of presenting companies, including Wednesday night’s keynote speaker Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president of global innovation policy and communications and an alumnus of GMU’s law school.

Sponsors include Arlington Economic Development and Accenture, which has a presence in Arlington. Sorrell said Mason already has attracted sponsors for next year’s conference, and the university aims to host Accelerate annually.

Meanwhile, work continues on the physical aspect of Mason’s expansion, built atop the now-demolished Kann’s Department Store on the west side of the Fairfax Drive campus. With state funding, GMU is building an Institute for Digital Innovation that will house a 5G testing area, an incubator space, and other tech-related education opportunities.

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Ballston startup GoTab, which facilitates QR code ordering in restaurants, has unveiled its new, all-in-one point-of-sale system for restaurants and bars.

The cloud-based system is designed to help restaurants and bars adapt to a growing preference for online ordering without erasing the personal connection of in-person service.

GoTab launched its contactless ordering technology in 2016, but experienced a huge boon in use during the pandemic when contactless ordering and payment became the norm. Today, it operates in restaurants, hotels, resorts, golf courses, festivals and the Capital One Arena in D.C.

And now, the startup is banking on restaurants seeing these technological changes not as pandemic-era adaptations, but as new fixtures of the dining experience. One way it aims to do that is by incorporating the benefits of QR code ordering — more guest control over ordering and paying — into a soup-to-nuts sales platform that works for eateries.

“With the GoTab all-in-one restaurant POS, operators can now easily tailor a guest-initiated experience or a server-initiated experience, enabling both parties to start and access the ordering tab and giving everyone flexibility to place orders however they wish,” the company says.

The all-in-one point of sale from Arlington-based startup GoTab (courtesy photo)

Having the information accessible both by servers and customers makes it easier for customers to communicate what they want and easier for servers to curate positive dining experiences, the company says.

It also means less work for servers, as the system eliminates the need to take down orders and modifications by hand and input them manually into a legacy point-of-sale system.

With GoTab, servers and managers can start and add to a digital tab, pass the tab to guests and update it later with order changes. Guests can then close out their tab on their phones with a credit card or mobile payment platform.

“Servers can be proactive and anticipate guests’ needs,” the release said.

And after the guests leave, GoTab’s cloud-based system remembers guests’ preferences, meaning restaurants can repurpose that information. The traditional system, meanwhile, only captures the information of the person paying, CEO Tim McLaughlin said.

“In a traditional restaurant — let’s say you have a table of four — a restaurant is lucky if they can capture a single diner’s data for loyalty, spending insights and marketing purposes,” he said. “With GoTab, operators have access to all four diners’ ordering details. So we provide an operator with exponentially more first-party data.”

With that information, he said, restaurants and bars can create loyalty programs and foster repeat customers.

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

A local agricultural technology company is offering tools to help industrial farmers grow food more sustainably and fight climate change.

EarthOptics, a startup with a significant Crystal City presence at 2461 S. Clark Street, developed a product that impressed investors enough that it led to a $10.3 million Series A funding round.

Its product uses technology to imitate a natural process. Every year, the Earth’s terrestrial surfaces and oceans absorb billions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere. Industrial farmlands, however, release more carbon into the atmosphere than they trap, contributing to climate change.

Over the last 50 years, farming has led to 130 billion tons of carbon evaporating from the soil, EarthOptics CEO Lars Dyrud said. But scientists estimate about or 60-70 billion tons could be returned to soil through simple changes such as tilling fields more effectively. That represents five years’ worth of human carbon emissions, he says.

“It’s a win-win for everybody: It takes carbon out of the atmosphere, makes the soil more fertile and makes the food grown there more nutritious,” he said.

EarthOptics has two tools that use Artificial Intelligence to help farmers sequester more carbon in the soil while improving yields and food quality, while trimming costs.

“We’ve taken 130 billion tons of carbon out of the soil through our agricultural practices,” Dyrud said. “It seems fairly straightforward that we can put it back… We all have to eat anyway — if we can make eating part of the solution that seems like a pretty exciting prospect.”

EarthOptics’ TillMapper helps farmers decide if, when, where and how deep to till (courtesy photo)

The first product to launch maps how dense the soil is. Due to heavy rains and machinery, soil gets compacted, making it harder for plants to grow. In response, farmers till the land to loosen it, releasing carbon. The map allows farmers to till only where needed and retain more carbon.

This year, EarthOptics launched a tool that measures how much carbon is sequestered so that farmers can be reimbursed through carbon credits for carbon-storing practices. The credits are paid for by large companies looking to offset their carbon emissions, such as Google.

Dyrud said the product makes participation cost-effective for farmers. Traditionally, farmers have to take dozens of soil samples and send them to a lab for testing. This process tends to eat up most of the money they make.

Instead, EarthOptics combines samples and AI sensors to map out carbon levels across the site using fewer samples.

“We’re the only ones that still combine traditional measurements, which is where accuracy and trust comes from, with machine learning to dramatically lower costs,” he said.

EarthOptics’ patented machine-learning system (courtesy photo)

That piqued the interest of investment groups such as Leaps by Bayer, the venture arm of German pharmaceutical company Bayer, as well as other firms, including Alexandria-based Route 66 Ventures. With the backing, Dyrud said EarthOptics will scale up its existing products and launch new technologies that measure nutrient levels, which could lower fertilization and irrigation costs.

Read More

0 Comments

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Ballston-based catering marketplace HUNGRY has nabbed $21 million in funding with backing from celebrities and athletes.

Investors in its Series C funding round include actress Issa Rae, “America’s Got Talent” host Terry Crews, NFL player DeAndre Hopkins, NBA player Lonzo Ball and boxer Deontay Wilder. More than a dozen venture backers joined in the round, including Arlington-based Sands Capital Global Venture Fund.

Previous celebrity backers include the investment group of hip hop mogul Jay-Z and singer/songwriter Usher.

With the newly-raised money, co-founder Shy Pahlevani tells ARLnow that HUNGRY can fund its plans to add new locations and services.

“Over the course of the next year, HUNGRY plans to expand its onsite services and hire more aggressively,” co-founder Shy Pahlevani said. “The money from our Series C funding will be used to strengthen our West Coast presence, starting with Southern California and Silicon Valley. In September, we plan to launch onsite services in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.”

The startup is opening HUNGRY Cafés, which provide café and coffee bar services to business clients, and expanding food truck experiences through a partnership with food truck company Roaming Hunger.

The funding round caps a successful year for the startup, which was in the top 500 of the latest Inc. list of the fastest-growing companies in America.

“Not only is it an incredible honor to receive a spot on the Inc. 5000 list, it’s a true testament to the hustle, grit, and smarts our team has displayed over the last year and half,” he said. “Despite all the challenges we faced during the early stages of the pandemic, we’ve defied the odds — relying on great teamwork and staying true to our core value [of] positivity.”

The co-founder says celebrity support has bolstered HUNGRY’s brand recognition.

“Celebrities are investing their money in startups more and more, and we believe they’re choosing to back HUNGRY because of our mission, values and history of innovation,” he said.

Hungry founders Eman Pahlavani, Shy Pahlevani and Jeff Grass (courtesy photo)

One of HUNGRY’s biggest pandemic-era innovations is still growing: Virtual Xperiences. Groups can purchase experiences such as online cooking classes with name-brand chefs with supplies sent directly to participants’ homes.

Pahlevani said that business is still “booming… [and] we expect it to continue its staggering growth for the foreseeable future.”

The startup continues to roll out cooking, baking and drink-making experiences — as well as ones not related to gastronomy — on a monthly basis. A number of new concepts are launching this fall, Pahlevani said.

Meanwhile, HUNGRY is seeing part of its original business line, office catering, ramp up again.

“Office catering is starting to pick up across the country as more and more Americans get vaccinated,” Pahlevani said. “We continue to support thousands of clients through our Food Solutions onsite offerings across Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, D.C. Atlanta, Dallas and Austin. Veteran clients, such as Wayfair and Appian, are back to providing meals for their teams onsite, providing a delicious incentive for their teams returning to work.”

Another pandemic-era pivot, however, has come to an end — a partnership with Washington Nationals. When baseball resumed, without fans, those watching from home could get stadium food delivered via the startup.

“The continuation of our Washington Nationals partnership will depend on stadium attendance and interest, but we thoroughly enjoyed working with the powerhouse sports team and would be happy to continue those efforts to provide fans with a stadium experience at-home moving forward,” Pahlevani said.

During the pandemic, HUNGRY has also given back, feeding those who are food insecure as well as members of the National Guard who were sent to D.C. for the inauguration of President Joe Biden. And with the holiday season soon approaching, Pahlevani said HUNGRY has some initiatives planned.

“As we get closer to the holidays, we plan to activate a number of donations and events designed to help those who are food insecure in the communities that we serve, which will include the greater Arlington community,” he said.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list